Romanticism was born in 1799 with the publication of ”Lyrical Ballads,” a collection of poems by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Those dudes could flat out write.
Don’t reduce Romanticism to just love. Love can be romantic, but romance is so much more than just “come on baby, light my fire.” (Yes, it’s true, Jimmy boy was a Romantic, through and through. But that’s a subject for another day.) Romanticism is larger than life—a wistful, world-weary, wise, and wonderful way of looking at ways of looking at things.
So let’s have a look at the 6 main aspects of Romanticism that could inspire your imagination and light your writing fire.
Be a seer, a New Visionary
Easier said than done, but that’s what the Romantics did. They innovated. They broke all the rules.
Write about the commonplace, about the world around you: your hood, your job, your friends, your experiences. Write them new. Say what’s never been said before.
Listen for, as Wordsworth said, “the unheard melodies” of your imagination.
You’ve got words inside you. You just have to listen for them, hear them, and write them.
Be an idealist rather than a materialist
Write stories about people sticking to their ideals and principles.
“The world is too much with us,” said Wordsworth. “Late and soon/ Getting and spending we lay waste our powers;/ Little we see in Nature that is ours;…..”
I’d say there are probably at least 100 stories all around you of people who fit this bill. People wasting their lives “getting and spending.” People lost in material pursuits—empty headed, self-centered , out of touch with what’s really important in life.
By Nature, Wordsworth doesn’t just mean flowers and forests. He means human nature: what we think, feel, understand; how we behave, relate, cope. The basics.
Study and write about the basics. .About “The human heart in conflict with itself,” as Faulkner put it.
It’s a matter of mind over matter
The artist recreates a new reality. Try to rearrange the world. Make your reader see things in a new way.
Take your subject, whatever it is, and look at it upside down and sideways. It’s all just stuff. Throw it up in the air and see where it lands.
Chill and then write
On some days, you’re all fired up or pissed off. Something happened to you that would make a good story.
Chill first. Here’s Wordsworth’s writing method: “emotion recollected in tranquility.”
You felt a strong emotion—fear, anger, embarrassment, despair. You wanted to kill somebody, you were so mad.
Wait until you calm down. Get into a tranquil mood. Then recollect that strong emotion. Bring it back inside your head. Imagine that feeling all over again.
Then write the story that triggered the feeling.
Take a long walk
The Romantics did just about every day.
Seriously. When was the last time you took a long solitary walk? It focuses you, clears your head, helps you introspect.
Take a notepad and pen with you. That’s right. No iPad or laptop. And no texting! No interruptions.
Ideas will come to you. Walking releases imagination. It’s true. Try it.
Just walk and think. When you get ideas, stop and write them down.
Plot around contradictions
People have trouble with contradictions. They usually get all self-righteous and scream: “You’re contradicting yourself!” As if that automatically makes you wrong and them right.
In many cases, the contradictions are great conflicts. Great conflicts are the essence of great plots.
Look for contradictory people, topics, events, experiences. Examine them.
Maybe you’ll discover there’s a logic in the contradictions: the logic of multiple perspectives. Of our inherent confusion over what to think and how to feel.
Contradictions, mixed up people, confused situations—they all make for good characterization and plot elements
Contradictions abound. Life isn’t all unity and harmony.
Grow an organic writing garden
Coleridge had an organic theory of writing: like a seed in the imagination, the idea grows out of itself; self‑originating and self‑organizing.
Start with a seed and just write. See what branches take shape. Let them grow where they go. Let your leaves sprout where they want to. Like a tree, all the branches and leaves of your writing are connected to the whole tree.
Coleridge wrote some crazy good stuff, such as “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” about sailors on a ship lost at sea with “water, water every where/ Nor any drop to drink.” And “Kubla Khan”: “His flashing eyes, his floating hair!/ Weave a circle round him thrice,/And close your eyes with holy dread,/For he on honey-dew hath fed/And drunk the milk of Paradise.”
What poetry. Written by an idealistic seer who stirred his imagination on long walks, chillin after bad experiences, and then writing organically about life’s contradictions.